Prepping for Normal People: How to Prep When You’re NOT an Epic Wilderness Survival Guru

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you'll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course

Did you ever read a blog post on a prepper site and sigh, because the person writing the post seemed to have been born a survivalist?

In your mind’s eye, you could envision them at the tender age of six, weaving a snare from some vines that they wisely assessed not to be poison ivy, catching a rabbit, skinning and gutting it with a pocketknife, and cooking it over a fire they started with two sticks that they rubbed together, while wearing their little elementary-school-sized camo outfit.

Discouraging, isn’t it?

But not everyone can be Daryl Dixon.

Normal people can survive, too.

Prepping for normal people often seems out of reach, but it’s not as outrageous as it sounds.

In fact, I really don’t believe that the majority of preppers actually are rugged survival gurus. Most of us had to make a conscious effort to learn. Most of us aren’t wilderness guides or professional hunters or military special forces operatives.  We don’t regularly pop a deer in the backyard with a homemade bow, we don’t have a bunker with 30 years of storable food and an aquifer we can access from within the safety of its walls, we don’t isolate our children from all forms of popular culture, and we don’t live in the middle of nowhere, so deep in the woods that we have to carefully climb a tree while clenching a laptop in our teeth to get an internet signal. We aren’t all off-grid homesteaders that weave our own fabric from the sheep we nurtured through a Himalayan winter.

Nope.

We are regular moms and dads. We are grandparents or teenagers. We go to the movies, grab an occasional coffee at Starbucks, and shop at Safeway. Our kids have friends whose parents would have no clue what to do in a disaster. We have Golden Retrievers, Pomeranians, parakeets, and cats.  We have jobs with officemates who have no idea we possess a year’s worth of beans. We live in downtown apartments, Victorian cottages, and raised ranch homes in the suburbs.

There’s something that sets us apart from the normies.

The thing that sets us apart – and sets you apart too – is the willingness to accept that life is not rainbows and lollipops. Not only do we accept it, but we do our best to take responsibility for our families should a disaster strike, whether that disaster is something on such a grand scale that it affects the entire region, or so small and personal that it only affects those living in your home.

So don’t read that stuff and sigh anymore. While there are those people who truly have been born to the lifestyle, most of us aren’t that way.

And that means we all started somewhere.

Maybe it was the realization that it was better to buy more of the sale stuff so we’d have it on hand for lean weeks. Maybe a week-long power outage occurred and we didn’t want to be caught with our drawers down again. A storm, a job loss, a devastating illness – whatever the reason we started, chances are we didn’t start out by moving to a yurt in the wilderness and living off the land.

Anyone can do this.  Anyone.

All it takes is the willingness to learn and the enthusiasm to practice.  Preparedness is an evolution, one that we all begin at a different place.

Here’s an example.

I grew up a pampered city girl. My family was reasonably well-to-do, and when we went on vacation, we usually stayed at resorts or nice hotels. We didn’t ever go rough it in the woods, and the one time we “camped” (when I was about 6 years old) it was in a luxury trailer with a bedroom and a functioning bathroom. Needless to say, very few wilderness survival skills were learned. In fact, my mom didn’t even want me to walk out into the woods because she was worried I’d be bitten by a snake.

Fast forward to adulthood, when I was a single mom with two girls. I had been prepping for years, building stockpiles, learning to can, and doing all of the stuff city preppers do. I decided to up the ante, and when my oldest went off to college, my youngest and I moved out to the boondocks of Ontario, Canada. It was then that I realized I had no freakin’ idea what I was doing. None. I couldn’t even build a fire in the woodstove that would stay lit, and the woodstove was the only heat in the cabin. I thought, “What the heck have I done?” I wanted to bail, but I didn’t have enough money to scurry back to civilization.

So I learned.

I learned to build a fire, stack wood, deal with 5 feet – yes, 5 feet – of snow, avoid attracting bears to our cabin, paddle a canoe (once I finally learned to get in the canoe without flipping over), cook on  a woodstove during a blizzard power outage, live with intermittent running water and electricity – all sorts of stuff.

And I didn’t do ANY of it right the very first time I did it.

I broke things, froze wood to the wall of my cabin, shivered when the fire went out, freaked out when there was a bear on my porch, climbed out a window and dug my shovel out of the snow with cooking pots because I had left it outside and snow had blown against my door, burying the shovel and trapping us inside. Seriously, no one ever would have made a cool show about us living in the woods, not unless it was a comedy.

But I learned.

Anybody can learn, even a city girl like me.

I am MUCH better prepared after the year we spent doing that stuff. Now, that stuff is easy for me and I could flawlessly demonstrate many skills while people looked on, impressed. But it didn’t start out that way. I often meet people who are far more skilled than I am and I welcome the chance to learn from them.

I’m not writing this so you think, “Wow, why would I take any advice from her, ever? She didn’t even know how to build a fire a few years ago.”

I’m writing this so that you don’t become discouraged. So that you remember that preparedness is an evolution. It’s a journey that starts when you do.

Wherever you are right now is a great place to start. The best! If you are willing to research, learn, and practice, in 6 months you’ll be amazed at how much your skills have improved. If you start building your supplies now, no matter how slowly, in 6 months, your stores will have increased.

Learn some skills.

So get a few good books, find some good websites, and tackle some skill-building.

There are some awesome epic wilderness survival gurus and some off-grid families that truly want to help and teach. I know some of them. And there are some arrogant jerks who think that their way is the only way, and that anyone who is unlike them doesn’t stand a chance.  I know some of them, too. If a so-called teacher makes you feel like you don’t stand a chance because of your current point in the journey, get as far away from that person as possible. Whatever they have to teach you will be drowned out by the noise of their derogatory and discouraging attitudes.

There are many positive places to learn, like this website. Places where you can feel free to ask questions without feeling embarrassed.  There are warm and inviting places on the internet where people aren’t judgemental and where they gladly share their knowledge with newcomers.

You don’t have to start out as an epic survival guru.

No matter who you are.

No matter where you are.

All it takes to improve your chances of survival is the willingness to learn and the courage to try.

Check out these warm and welcoming preparedness websites:

Just start learning.

Most of us didn’t spring from the womb with a fire-starting flint and a #10 can. Most of us started exactly where you are now.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • GREAT ARTICLE!! A wonderful message that needed to be said.

    Three years ago, I decided I wanted to grow food. We had no idea about soil nutrients, composting, or even how to preserve the harvest. Looking back, I am amazed at how far we have come. I am able to pressure and water bath can, smoke, dehydrate, and preserve food. I know about mylar bags and oxygen absorbers, how to gut a deer, grow food, and make primitive shelters.
    We are avid campers and many of the lessons learned from tent camping translates over to preparedness and survivalism very well. Like you said above, starting a fire and keeping it going is something that has to be learned. Then there are the additional skills such as making a cooking fire versus banking the fire so it will smolder all night long, leaving coals for the morning. It all builds on itself. If you want a fire, you need to know how to chop wood – and in the right way. You just have to start with one thing and before you know it, you’re not only more confident and look at the world around you differently, you have the SKILLS needed to make it. It always seems to start with something small.

    Definitely sharing this one. Thanks!

    LeAnn Edmondson

    • Thank you so much! I’m really glad you like the article. 🙂 This means a lot coming from you, because you are bad to the bone!

  • You nailed it, my friend! No matter what skill level we think we have, there’s always more to learn as a student of self-reliance. And if anyone claims to have all the answers, don’t walk, run away… fast!

    Thank you so much for the link, Daisy! I love your story and work. Keep doing it!

  • Well put, Daisy! The thing people have to remember is that everyone – EVERYONE – is at a different phase in the learning curve. We can help one another along and all grow together.

    Thanks for the shout out! Rock on!

  • Thank you Daisy for puting things in perspective!
    Too many who would be NOT helpful through derision.
    I like your list of sites as well, glad to see one certain site missing, it has gone wayyyyy down hill!
    For myself is best to keep things simple.
    Cheers

  • Hi Daisy

    I’ve never done much on the disaster preparedness front, though I could probably keep a fire lit for a minute or two. And you’re right, the apocalypse survivors who’ve returned to ‘show the rest of us’ the one true way do make it all seem rather extreme.

    You don’t. And as you illustrate, all learning leaves error and ‘comedy’ in its wake, in any subject. Your lessons have a wide application.

    I’m pleased you survived the bear.

    And your article was one of the BEST in the summer 2015 competition. CONGRATULATIONS!

    Ant

  • Hey, Daisy!

    This was great. I could relate, because I bought a falling down country house several years ago in Siskiyou County, and had to learn to build fires in our little stove. We ended up using starter fluid and lost a few eyebrows. Bought wood that wasn’t ready to burn for another year. We didn’t have to fight the elements quite as ferociously as you did, but it was an eye opener. The birds ate my seedlings, dropped them in the middle of our yard, and I had a gigantic sunflower growing where I least expected it.

    I miss that house, and I miss living there. Now, I have some first aid supplies, and emergency lights. It’s something, I guess.

    Congrats on winning!

  • Daisy, thank you, thank you, thank you!
    I have wanted to live in the wilderness most of my adult life (49 now) and been ‘afraid’ of and recieved negativity from most ‘conformists’ during this time. However, I kept on researching and practising my skills all these years and it looks like this may be the year!
    I have down sized my possesions to the bare necessities (well, I still have the turntable and vinyl collection) and started to prepare my pantry goods.
    It is still difficult when I speak with a person who just doesn’t get this passion but, I have some great friends and my children are behind my choices, which helps me to stay on target.
    My close friend asked me on my recent birthday, ” what would be your regrets if you found yourself on your deathbed today”?
    Without hesitation, but many tears at the thought, ” to die without ever even giving the wilderness life a try”.
    So my excitment is back on track and the article you have here has reminded me that, it can be done!
    Thank you again for the encouraging remarks.
    -“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are”. -Joseph Campbell
    Fondest regards; Sherri-Lynn

    • Go for it, Sherri-Lynn! I had a talk with my good friend about this today. We have to dig in and try things that are outside of our comfort zones. In failure we learn, and in trying again, we succeed.

      I wish you all the best!

      Daisy

  • Daisy … you are the BOMB!!! Your website is what I’ve been looking for. Thank you so much for it. I got on a kick of reading zombie books, loved the strategy. After a while, though, I started thinking about beginning to make some preparations. I haven’t even told my family because I know they’ll make fun of me! But, we moved to New York not even a year after Sandy. Now we are susceptible to hurricanes and blizzards. We lived in Nashville during the thousand-year-flood of the Cumberland River. Now look at these poor people in Mexico! Fine one minute, and the worst storm in history bearing down on them the next! So I have been perusing the prepper and survival sites and finding things online to purchase. But, like you said … it can get overwhelming and some of the prepper sites are just a tad bit on the CRAZY side! So I started thinking that I should just start with being prepared for a two-week power outage. We lived in Mississippi in 1994 when a sever ice storm knocked us out of power for two weeks. We ultimately moved in with a relative who still had electricity. So, finding your rational, non-crazy site was wonderful! I feel like I now have a sensible guide to helping me provide for my family in case of an emergency. Also … I can now tell them I am preparing for a potential power outage this winter and hopefully bypass the mockery. So … yes I took the Y2K thing seriously, and yes I bought water and bags and bags of brown rice and beans, and yes nothing came of it and we had all the beans and rice we could want for ten years! That doesn’t in ail date potential future problems, but it does gibe my family plenty of room for good-natured jokes about it! Thank you!

    • Welcome, Lisa! I hope you enjoy the site. 🙂 It sounds like you’ve been through a lot of experiences that have taught you the importance of preparedness.

  • I really like this post, well written and good common sense. I teach bushcraft in Boy Scouts, they learn fast and have good ideas. We teach with the EDGE method. I tell them if you ever make someone feel foolish,you have doomed them not to learn. Always practice before you “Need” to use any skill. Thank you again and I will look for your books.

  • Thanks for the interesting read. I really appreciate the fact that you took the time to spell check and edit your work before publishing. So many authors put stuff out and don’t understand how their credibility suffers when they put out articles that look like they were done by grade-schoolers.

  • Sadly, the Trayerwilderness.com website seems to be no longer working — but earlier versions of it were saved on archive.org

    I saved this list of Top 50 survival / preparedness websites in December 2018:

    https://survivalpulse.com/top-50-survival-blogs/

    to which I might add:

    https://www.survivalsullivan.com

    You can’t read them all — you have your daily living to do, so you have to pick which few seem most relevant to your situation. I was glad to see that Daisy’s TheOrganicPrepper.com was included, as #36.

    –Lewis

  • I think that someone should do a show like without the glitz and help that is behind the scenes. A real life experience. I know it probably won’t be done, I did much the same, in 1976 we bought a place, no power, well water that we couldn’t get without the electricity, there was a 12 ft open well that we could use but had to either filter or boil water, brought snow in to melt on the stove etc. I made the most beautiful looking bread that was raw on the inside, I had to get up over an hour earlier to make sure I could actually have a fire in the stove to cook breakfast on, overcooked eggs and undercooked bacon but the most beautiful toast in the world made on that stove, we lived there for 41 yrs until my husband passed away, I miss that place to my core. Working towards having a similar place but easier for me to work with.

  • Margaret, your experience brings back firm memories of both my sets of grandparents. They all were non-electric homesteaders in the pre-1920s era. As the REA (Rural Electrification Administration) came into being, they adapted. Without exception, when they retired in their 70s, they all moved into small towns and either sold the homestead or let their last and youngest child move in. They could no longer handle the homesteading farm workload.

    That pattern also applied to every other family I know of in that long ago rural community. Many such rural houses either stand empty today, or have been bulldozed. In 1880, about 80% of the American population lived on farms. By 1930 that percentage had dwindled down to about 30%. (Easy to remember, huh!) In 1930 there were four occupied houses on the two-mile stretch of dirt road where I was much later born. By 1950, just three were occupied. One by one they all were bulldozed.

    Today, farming bankruptcies are up, and all over the news. Longtime dairy farmers are selling off their herds after a lifetime’s effort and experience. What that says to me is that newbie homesteading today requires the energy of youth and some kind of portable income generating ability, because trying to duplicate what the longtime and highly experienced farming generation is abandoning is head-butting folly.

    –Lewis

  • Good article Daisy. I can remember some of the condescending comments when I was first getting started several years ago. Everyone has to start somewhere and not knowing how to start is one of the biggest hurdles. It’s nice to find support with a nice community online. This needed to be said, thanks for saying it. 🙂

  • Dear Daisy,
    The thing that stops people froom achiving goals os fear of failure.
    People will not try anything new as they already know that they do not know how to do it perfectly.
    So sad.
    I am proud to say that I have made more galactically stupid mistakes than anyone I know .
    I have been making mistakes all my life and guess what…i don’t give a damn.
    Only by making mistakes can some one learn and now at 62 I HAVE learnt the odd thing.
    One day you will be old(there is an alternative…)and hopefully not as daft as you started out.
    We all know what we know ….however we don’t know what we don’t know.
    Keep cocking up and learning..XXX

  • Great article, Daisy.
    Very helpful for anybody who feels unsure of what they need to do to get started prepping. I’m going to send it along to a couple of friends. I like your common sense, down-to-earth approach, and the ‘anybody can do this’ thinking.
    We all need a pep talk and some guidelines from time to time. It works for me.

  • I have been planing for a major event since moving out of LA in ’85. Back then it was earthquakes and anything that stopped food flowing into town. A few years ago our rural town was cut off by a major mudslide for a week.
    Wake up time. I asked our city manager what if any plans they had for something worse. Deer in the headlights look. The I read “Lights Out” by Koppel. My Doctor mentioned Pandemic. A dozen of us started meeting and laying out the ground work for a local plan. That led us to starting a local Civil Defense group plan.
    Then one of our leaders asked the question:
    How prepared are you?
    A lot of deer looks later we realized we would be part of the problem and not the solution. So we stepped back and started learning and building our own resources to cover our own family for a year.
    Then we discovered “The Civil Defense Book” by Michael Mabee.
    We are west coast and he is east cost but we both came to the reality that the only groups that will survive and prosper are small rural communities that have a plan and resources to transition our people back to a 1850 lifestyle for the most part.
    The bunker lifestyle only lasts till the food runs out.
    The community lifestyle learns to make it or make do.
    Our motto is “that’s different!”. Even the best solar system will eventually use up all the batteries.
    Keep up the good work.

  • Sometimes I get overwhelmed by prepping and feel like I’m failing at it. This is what I’ve been needing to hear. Thank you for the encouragement!

  • This was a great read especially for people who don’t consider themselves “preppers”. Encouraging normal people to think about the possibility of being prepared for disaster is great, because when SHTF it will be hard enough to be prepared for yourself, you don’t want to have to be prepared for everyone else too! Knowledge is the best tool.

  • This is great !!! i read about your experiences , skills you develop, confidence, patience and courage with knowledge about survival where ever you are …Urban and wilderness… Thanks so much for sharing and more power to you…

  • Great read. Thanks for sharing your story. You are so right that most of us are only ordinary people. Prepping is for everybody.

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